In a Culture Where Men’s Health is Still Seen as a Taboo We Look at Why Movember Has Become So Successful

Whether it is a common myth or not, women appear to be happier talking about their health concerns more than men do, especially when it comes to more serious ailments such as cancer or mental health. If you spot a group of women out having a drink talk can easily turn to their ailments whereas with men, it is not always the case. But thanks to November now being more popularly known as ‘Movember’ times are changing.

According to their website, ‘Movember’ was created after two mates – Travis Garone and Luke Slattery – met up for a quiet drink in their local bar in Melbourne, Australia in 2003. They noticed that the mustache was no longer a trendy thing to have and wanted to see if they could bring it back, while raising awareness and money for good causes. Since the original 30 friends grew their “‘stache for cash” the organization has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon, raising over $571 million and funding thousands of health projects.

But why is it so successful?

Health issues, particularly in men, is something that have been ignored for years so the idea of taking something serious and making it fun was an appealing prospect.

Men generally prefer not to discuss issues such as prostate or testicular cancer, mental health and sadly, men’s suicide. Unfortunately the numbers for men’s suicide are ‘going in the wrong direction’, not just in the U.S. but globally as well.

Embed from Getty Images

U.S. Executive Director of Movember Mark Hedstrom shares the shocking statistics, “about 800,000 individuals take their own lives globally and 500,000 of those are men. When we look at the trend in the U.S. context, about 75 per cent of those suicides are men.”

Unfortunately generations of being told ‘real men don’t cry’ have created an era where men are discouraged from showing any form of emotion with a Movember study showing that 58% of men believe society expects them to be ‘emotionally strong and not show weakness in front of others’. Considering we are coming to the end of 2019, this is a great worry and something that clearly needs to be addressed.

It has also been reported that women will seek treatment for mental health more than men.

Dr. Zac Seidler is Movember’s Director of Health Professional Training, and he believes the fears that men have are mainly over their financial and career status. These fears are typically grown from incorrect stereotypes, and are a major issue in the continuing stigma that comes with men’s mental health. The Movember study also found that 34% of U.S. men genuinely believed they could lose their job if they talked about their mental health in the workplace.

Gender stereotypes are finally changing so men should no longer feel the pressure to be the breadwinner. There has been an increase in stay-at-home dads and many households have had dual incomes for several years, but the old beliefs are hard to change.

So why a mustache?

Embed from Getty Images

The beliefs that men should hide their emotions is as out-dated as the handle bar mustache, so why not promote one to show that society has changed. By having a laugh at themselves, men can start to focus on a more positive masculinity, something drastically needed if we are to continue the long awaited culture of everyone, and everything, being equal.

Movember’s marketing jokingly plays heavily on the stigmas they are trying to abolish, calling out to men to help each other and to build relationships and conversations about men’s health. Their campaign “Grow a mo, save a bro” not only highlights the importance of communication, it also teaches them how to actually grow a mo!

Today’s culture appears to be dedicated to a blend of fun and seriousness and this can be seen in other aspects of our everyday lives. Whether it is some lighthearted comedy such as Saturday Night Live, going to a bar with your friends or just making a man look ridiculous for 30 days (although some do actually look quite distinguished, Tom Selleck) humor seems to be the successful way we are dealing with hard issues.

The added bonus to Movember is how it is helping to change the landscape of masculinity by not being age specific either. Whether you are a boomer, Gen-Xer, Millennial or something in between, if you can grow a mustache you are on your way to helping promote the changes in society that were so desperately needed, not just in America but across the world.

Finally we have a culture where men can feel they can talk to people about their health, a culture where men can feel they can discuss their mental health at work and not lose their job, their home, their family.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.